Former University of New Hampshire Police Chief Nicholas Halias, who once dressed up as a bishop to provide security for a real one, died this week after a 43-year career in New Hampshire law enforcement.
“He was just an amazing leader: charismatic, someone you’d want to follow,” UNH Police Chief Paul Dean said Friday.
“The thing that stuck with me when I first met Nick was his stance was always take the high road regardless of the situation,” said Dean, who worked for Halias. “I’d like to think I’m a better person because I followed his teachings.”
Halias, who served as UNH police chief from 2000 to 2012, was 67 and living in Pembroke when he died Monday.
Dean, on his department’s Facebook page, said Halias “died after a courageous struggle with illness.” Dean declined to disclose the illness.
In 2003, Halias donned a white robe as one of more than 100 law enforcement agents providing security at the consecration of V. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay Episcopalian bishop.
“He’s known as Bishop Halias,” Sgt. Andy Parson, from the state police bomb squad, told a reporter at the time.
Halias served in the New Hampshire State Police from 1969 to 2000, according to the UNH website. During his time, he was commander of the narcotics and intelligence unit and the Governor’s Executive Protection Unit.
More than 30 years ago, as a state police corporal, Halias was knocked cold during a melee involving protesters at the Seabrook nuclear power plant. A 2-1/2-pound handmade grappling hook welded from reinforcing rods rendered him unconscious.
‘A class act’
On Facebook, Dot Cleary recalled the time the two men worked at state police.
“Always a class act throughout his law enforcement career and in his personal life,” Cleary wrote. “I was blessed to know him both personally and professionally.”
Halias served on many boards, including the board of trustees for the Community College System of New Hampshire; the Domestic Violence Fatality Review Committee of the Governor’s Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence, the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center, Northeast Region; and the Department of Justice, Electronic Crime Partnership Initiative (ECPI).
He also was an adjunct faculty member with the Community College System of New Hampshire, and a certified instructor for the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Act.
When Halias arrived at UNH in 2000 during “a time of turbulence” within the department, he “brought a huge positive light on to the organization and really took us places,” Dean said.
“His loss is not only a huge loss to the men and women of the UNH Police Department but a huge loss to law enforcement in New Hampshire,” Dean said.
After retiring, Halias did consulting accreditation work and also taught criminal justice courses, Dean said.
“His contributions to public safety at UNH and throughout the state were vast and we will always be grateful for his commitment and dedication to keeping our students safe,” said UNH spokeswoman Erika Mantz.
A memorial service will be held in the spring. Details will be announced as soon as they are made available.